10 Events that shaped India in the 1990's ...

Very much wanted to write a post on the 1990's for a long time. It was a decade, in which I grew up, and it left a lasting impression on me. I think, it was living in that decade, and witnessing first hand, the power of ideas, that has lead me to become the man, that I am.

Note:- This might be a long post. So read at your discretion.

Here goes the snapshot.



1991 :Assasination of Rajiv Gandhi.
1992 :Demolition of Babri Masjid.
1991/1996 :Age of Economic Reforms.
1993 :Bombay Blasts rock the nation.
1993/1994 :Plague in Surat and Latur Earthquake.
1996 :Jain-Hawala Case comes to light.
1997 :India celebrates 50 years of Independence.
1997 :VDIS
1998 :India becomes a Nuclear Power.
1999 :Operation Vijay - India's Kargil War.


Honorable Mention:-
1992 :Advent of Cable T.V.



Assasination of Rajiv Gandhi :-Rajiv Gandhi, visited Sriperumbudur, to campaign for LS Candidate, Maragatham Chandrasekhar, on 21st May 1991. It was done by Suicide Bombing, one of the first uses in recent times, for the purpose of Political Terror. The reason being the role of India in sending the Peace Keeping Mission Force, which, according to some, destroyed the lives and families in Sri Lanka.

Reasons for this being a very important event in my memory are two :-
The funeral ceremony of Rajiv Gandhi was shown Live on T.V, perhaps for the first time, in the history of Television in India. The whole world mourned with The Gandhis, - The Surname to Die for.
Another important reason being, the judgement passed on the accused. The accused were arrested under the TADA(Act) The supreme Court of India, in a (according to me) Landmark Ruling, declared all 27 accused to be guilty and pronounced the Death Sentence. Further appeal, reduced the sentences of all, except 4.

This was one incident that shook the whole world. In the words of Anton Balasingham, the LTTE spokesman, (14 years after) the assasination of Rajiv Gandhi was "great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy which we deeply regret"

Demolition of Babri Masjid :-A Black Mark on India's Culture and Tradition. It triggered off a Political, Historical and Socio-Religious Debate, more popularly known as The Ayodhya Debate.

In the 16th century, the emperor Babur, constructed a mosque/masjid on the supposedly sacro-sanct Ayodhya Bhoomi, where the temple of Shri Ram (was)(had been) built. The mosque was destroyed on December 6, 1992 by politically motivated Hindu Activists. There were about 150,000 people who, during a planned ceremony, destroyed the mosque. The Liberhan commission was set up to enquire into the incident. Interestingly, the Liberhan Commission is the longest running commission in Indian history, with almost all governments giving it liberal extensions. (though I believe the question is politically motivated, as no political party wants to get involved into this). There is no estimate of when this report will be submitted to the goverment, though a leaked Copy of the Report has rocked the Parliament a couple of days ago.

Reason for this to be embedded into my memory : We were staying in U.P at that point of time, and religious fervour ran high in those parts. There was curfew for more than a month, with curfew being lifted intermittently. Being accosted by gun-wielding policeman, and reading biased news gave us no real picture of the outside world.

Age of Economic Reforms :-1991-1996 - the golden age of Indian economy. With Manmohan Singh opening up the doors for globalisation and liberalisation in a seemingly non-descript economy, our GDP almost tripled in the 5 year reign by Rao. Throw in the changes made by P.Chidambaram in the EXIM policy in 1996, we were going over the roof, with trade.

I do not want to quote much here, lest I should start sounding like the Union Budget.

Bombay Blasts rock the nation :-A series of 13 Bomb explosions that took place in Bombay, paralysing India and shocking the world, is one more incident that shaped India, (in my opinion). The blasts were purported to have been done by Dawood. They, at the time of the incident, were the most destructive bomb explosions in Indian History. The attacks were considered as a shame, in a nation, where all religions were believed to have existed mutually since the beginning of time. Many hundreds were arrested and detained under TADA and scores of people were accused. Another Black Mark on India's glorious past.

Plague in Surat and Latur Earthquake :-The city of Surat, famous for its Sarees, became infamous in 1994, for the pneumonic plague that soon became an epidemic. Only 52 people died, but it resulted in such mass hysteria and panic, that more than 500,000 people moved out of the city of Surat. There was further panic, when these folks started to move towards other cities, as their inhabitants were afraid that the disease would be contagious. Many questions are still unanswered about the Plague, though many attribute it to the it to the fact that, there were heavy monsoons and poor drainage facilities, with animal remains rotting, leading to the spread of the plague. Kudos to the Indian Health Authorities for curbing the epidemic and restricting it to only a city.

Latur, experienced an earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale on the wee hours of 30th September 1993. An Estimated 30,000 people died, making it one of the most catastrophic earthquakes of the decade. About 400 sq. km of area in South Central Maharashtra was affected. After this catastrophic disaster, seismic zones were reclassified and standards were revised all over India.

Jain-Hawala Case comes to light :-If you are totally unaware of what Hawala is, you can read this here.
Here is the outline of the Hawala case.
In 1991, two Kashmiris, Shahabuddin Ghauri and Ashfaq Lone, were arrested under TADA. They were found to be conduits for passing on the Hawala money to Terrorists. Further digging, led to the Jain Brothers, SK Jain, NK Jain and BR Jain, who were supposed to have funded the money to the arrested Kashmiris, from where, they were passed on for funding Terrorist activities in India and elsewhere. It was later found that, the source for the Jains' money was from Politicians, which included the Who's Who of Indian politics. Moolchand Shah, an alleged mastermind, and associate of Dawood, was arrested. But he hired the famous Ram Jethmalani, to plead his case and the Supreme Court let him off on bail. The diaries recovered from the Jain Brothers contains many explosive truths. As a website puts it..

"There were two many omissions in the prosecution case, too many gaping holes in their argument, too many unexplained turns."

The case was supposed to end with the arrest of Hurriyat leader Ali Shah Geelani.

India celebrates 50 years of Independence :-
No explanation required.
We Rock !!!!!

India becomes a Nuclear Power :-A Quarter century after 'Smiling Buddha', on 11 May 1998, Operation Shakti was carried out. Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, and Dr. R.Chidambaram were the key players in this momentous task. Once the tests were conducted, India was jubiliant. As wiki quotes...


"News about the tests was greeted with jubilation and large-scale approval by the society in India. The Bombay Stock Exchange registered significant gains. Newspapers and television channels praised the government for its bold decision; editorials were full of praise for the country's leadership and advocated the development of an operational nuclear arsenal for the country's armed forces. The scientific establishment was thankful to the government for having been given the opportunity to prove their capabilities. More significantly, all doubts were erased from the minds of people who questioned India's nuclear capability after the testing in 1974."

Read an Excerpt from "How the CIA Was Fooled.." By Raj Chengappa

VDIS :-
Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme was one gem of a scheme in my opinion. To tap the crores and crores of Black Money lying unused with people, This Scheme was introduced. No !! It was not a novelty. It was introduced during the Post Independence era by the Minister for Revenue & Expenditure in the Nehru Council of Ministers - Mahavir Tyagi. He introduced the First Voluntary Disclosure Scheme, known as the Tyagi Scheme, primarily, as he put it, to bring into the open incomes which had not been revealed to the alien government prior to independence. Well, P.C reintroduced it, much to the chagrin of critics and economists.

It was a "controversial voluntary disclosure of income scheme which granted income-tax defaulters indefinite immunity from prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, and the Companies Act, 1956 in exchange for self-valuation and disclosure of income and assets."

That the Comptroller and Auditor General of India condemned the scheme in his report as abusive and a fraud on the genuine taxpayers of the country, is another story altogether.

The Media folks had a field day, when they showed folks standing in long queues to deposit all the 'Black Money' that they had, in anticipation of immunity from Income Tax Defaulting. The critics may be critical of such a method to tap out the Black money, but at the end of the 214 day deadline, over 3.5lakh people, laughed their way to the Bank (Pun Intended) and declared assets worth more than Rs 25,000 crore.

This still remains my favorite Financial Scheme. :)
You can read something interesting about this,Here.
Well, If India Today ran a cover story, way back, in 1994, you can imagine what sort of ripples it might have made !!!

Operation Vijay - India's Kargil War :-Kargil Conflict was an armed conflict between India and Pakistan that took place between May and July of 1999. The infitration of Pakistani Soldiers and Kashmiri militants was the starting point of this conflict. Evidences later revealed that Pakistan was purportedly promoting Terrorism in Kashmir valley, by breeding Terrorists. This was perhaps only the second direct ground war between any two countries after they had developed nuclear weapons. Luckily no nuclear weapons were used. It was a resounding victory for India, and was a shot in the arm for the Vajpayee led NDA Government.

One important reason, why this is an important event is that, (budding talented)folks like Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt, and many more, were at their creative best at this point and watching them report news live was very patriotic (atleast for me.) It also showed to me, the power that media wields over the minds of the people.

Honorable Mention
Advent of Cable T.V :-

During the era of liberalisation and globalisation, the markets were thrown open for other players. Seizing the opportunity, Rupert Murdoch's STAR TV made its advent into the Indian Television Market. MTV, STAR Plus, BBC, Prime Sports and STAR Chinese Channel were the 5 channels. Soon Zee TV became the first private channel to broadcast via Cable. Sun TV (now Network) became the first South Indian channel to broadcast. Star expanded its bouquet introducing STAR World, STAR Sports, ESPN and STAR Gold, and since then there has been no looking back. Considering the fact that, DD Was the supreme leader in Television, it was reduced to nothing in front of the private players. Though the quality of the programmes is under question, it still played a very important role.

Phew... That is a looong looong post, and its serious too... !!!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009 by Hari
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